Lights out: Mississippi River bridge illumination off for good

Published 1:01 am Thursday, May 31, 2018

NATCHEZ — The decorative lights placed on the Mississippi River bridge will not be replaced after construction is completed, officials said.

Jas N. Smith, public information officer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said Wednesday that the lights were removed from the bridge when construction began and were found to be in poor condition.

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“About 70 percent of the lights need to be repaired or replaced due to the level of vibration from traffic on the metal bridge structure,” Smith said.

“Repairs would also have to be made to much of the wiring for the lights.”

Smith said the lights are aesthetic in nature and serve no function for bridge traffic.

Smith also said the U.S. Coast Guard would require MDOT to install photo sensor switches that would allow ships traveling the river to turn the lights off.

Smith said ships have difficulty navigating under the bridge when the lights are activated.

The $3 million project to hang the lights began in 2009 as an agreement between the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the town of Vidalia and the Louisiana Department of Transportation.

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft announced that the lights would not come back on at the May Board of Aldermen meeting.

“I was kind of disappointed,” Craft said. “I thought it was something that was special for our area. They were very pretty.”

Craft said the decision ultimately belonged to MDOT, as they completed all of the maintenance and put up the lights, though the town of Vidalia did provide electricity for the lights.

“In the interest of public safety and taxpayer dollars for the state, the decorative lighting will not be replaced,” Smith said.

“The primary purpose of the bridge is to serve as a traffic connector for the traveling public across the Mississippi River. All street lights and aviation navigation lights will remain to support highway, air and waterway traffic safety”